Top chef withdraws support for Tel Aviv event

Activists call on the Paris restaurant L’Ami Jean and its chef to pull out of an Israeli-government backed culinary event in Tel Aviv. (via BDS France)

Human rights activists have picketed high-end restaurants in cities around the world to protest their chefs’ participation in a culinary event in Tel Aviv that campaigners say “intends to whitewash Israel’s violent repression of Palestinian human rights.”

From 6-26 November, 13 top chefs, from elite dining establishments including New York’s Musket Room, Geneva’s La Bottega and L’Ami Jean in Paris, are slated to travel to Tel Aviv and take over the kitchens of Israeli restaurants, each for a week.

The initiative is sponsored by American Express and the Israeli government.

But one restaurant has withdrawn its support, The Electronic Intifada has learned. Others are reportedly expressing misgivings about taking part.

The names of Gustu and its world-renowned head chef Kamilla Seidler have been taken off the list of participants on the official Round Tables website and removed from the schedule of public appearances and lectures.

“BDS campaigners have urged Gustu Group and its chef Kamilla Seidler to pull out from the 2016 Round Tables tour in Tel Aviv. We are glad to hear that their names have been removed from the Round Tables website and from the scheduled side events,” Pedro Charbel, Latin America campaigns coordinator for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), told The Electronic Intifada.

Gustu, which calls itself a “socially focused” venture, is involved in a project with the international development charity Oxfam’s Danish affiliate Oxfam IBIS.

Campaigners in Denmark wrote to Oxfam urging the charity to distance itself from the participating restaurants, according to the BNC.

Masking apartheid

The Israeli organizers are calling the Round Tables initiative “gastro-diplomacy.”

But in a letter to the participating chefs last month, 140 international civil society organizations denounced the Tel Aviv event for its close association with the Israeli government, whose policies depriving millions of Palestinians of basic rights include systematic destruction of Palestinian agriculture.

“While the Round Tables event is presented as a ‘fruitful dialogue about culture, economy, and social issues,’ it is instead an appalling use of the time-honored tradition of sharing culinary experiences as a means for whitewashing widespread violation of Palestinian fundamental rights, including the right to food,” the groups say.

Noting that Round Tables is sponsored by the Israeli ministries of foreign affairs and tourism and the Tel Aviv municipality, the civil society groups urge the chefs “not to lend your culinary talents to mask Israel’s crimes.”

Dinners will include the service of wine from Israeli settlements in Syria’s occupied Golan Heights and international visitors will stay at Dan Hotels which, according to the BNC, “has a settlement hotel built on stolen Palestinian land in occupied East Jerusalem.”

Activists in Italy have also called on the mineral water company Ferrarelle to pull its sponsorship from the event.

Chefs respond

According to the BNC, the manager of one of the restaurants picketed in recent days “told local activists that they were not informed of the Israeli government involvement and the political nature of the event.”

The restaurant “would not have participated had they known,” according to the BNC.

The BNC said that the restaurant, which it did not identify, “informed activists that they would not participate in the future.”

Activists received a similar response at Madrid’s Triciclo, where one chef reportedly said it was too late to withdraw.

But when the campaign group BDS France tweeted at L’Ami Jean, as part of a global social media campaign using the hashtag #ApartheidRoundTables, the restaurant gave a defiant response.

It called Palestine solidarity activists “dishonest” and retweeted a tweet claiming that BDS is illegal in France.

Most restaurants did not respond to The Electronic Intifada’s inquiries. A spokesperson for Diego Muñoz said that the world-renowned chef based in Lima, Peru, “is in China and extremely busy” and was therefore not available to answer questions.

American Express did not respond to The Electronic Intifada.

“Round Tables sponsors are profiting from Israel’s apartheid and occupation and the event is used to whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and the brutal oppression of Palestinians,” the BNC’s Charbel said. “The chefs taking part in Round Tables are willingly being used in Israel’s propaganda and this has stained their reputation. We call on all chefs to cancel their participation from the Round Tables tour.”

At least one, Gustu’s Kamilla Seidler, appears to have heeded that call.




Good to know that at least one top chef had had the courage to back out of this charade. It is strange
how people can shut their minds to what Israel is doing to millions of occupied people who have no freedom, no lands, have their homes demolished for illegal settlements, and whose water is highly contaminated. From world leaders to world chefs, it seems human suffering when it comes to the Palestinians, is not an issue.


Cher Ami Jean,
Vous appelez les gens qui défendent la cause palestinienne malhonnête. Vous dites que l'appel du BDS en France est illégale. Recemmmant le commissaire des affaires etrangers de UE , Mme Mogherini á declaré, que
L'appel BDS est légal et est une composante du droit à la liberté d'expression. Vous mesurez avec 2 tailles pour vous croyez sans doute que crier "je suis Charlie " est légitime tout comme l'oppression des Palestiniens par Israel , mais la résistance contre cette oppression est illégale.

Par conséquent, je conclue que vous êtes malhonnête et je vais décourager des gents qui veulent visiter votre restaurant parce que si vous êtes malhonnête dans votre esprit que je soupçonne que vous êtes malhonnête avec les produits que vous servez dan votre restaurant. Par exemple par servir de la viande de cheval et pretender que c'est de la viande bovine et servir des produits qui sont fréquentés par des parasites.

Celui qui n'est pas honnête avec ces expressions, n'a pas des pensées honnêtes et ses actions sont malhonnêtes.

Evidemment vous ne savez pas que le droit communautaire a priorité sur le droit français.

Salutations .

Parliamentary questions
15 September 2016
Answer given by Vice-President Mogherini on behalf of the Commission

The EU firmly condemns threats and violence against human rights defenders under all circumstances. The EU regularly raises questions related to the protection of human rights and human rights defenders in its dialogue with the Isra